Friday, August 24, 2007

"El Sistema"

There has been much in the newspapers recently about “El Sistema”, the most recent in the Herald August 18th, and the decision to import it into the Raploch area of Stirling. By all accounts it looks to be wonderful program for introducing children to Classical Music and hopefully in turn help to give young people a purpose in their lives. With all that involves I wish them luck.

It is not however unique nor is it the first time such a scheme has taken place in Scotland. The most successful of these schemes started around the same time as “Il Sistema” i.e. 30 years ago. It involved the people of Pollock and was based in the now closed Bellarmine Secondary School. Under the guidance of Winnie Dean, the most inspired music teacher of her time, it grew into one of the most successful music schemes in Britain. Many of the people who took part are now professional musicians themselves, playing in orchestras all over the world. Many have gone on to various other careers but all still recall their musical and social experiences on a Saturday when they came together to make music at “The Arts Centre”. Unfortunately for this scheme it became an easy target for financial cutbacks. It was easy to target because it had become an embarrassment to the Education department and some City fathers. Some thought it was outrageous to let these working class children have ideas above their station. Others were just were just directly opposed to it because they had no real control. It had to close in 1988. The result was an enormous void in that community. This is the biggest danger with such schemes. They can become a political football, mostly through petty jealousy and lack of vision, and the result is anger and disillusionment among the benefactors of the scheme.
“El Sistema” has succeeded because it has been backed both financially and politically, no matter the persuasion, over a long number of years. I feel there is no reason why a similar scheme could not work here if there is willingness from the parties involved to give it the long term financial backing it needs. The benefits are enormous for the children involved and for society as a whole

No comments: